Comic fantasy author and all round institution Sir Terry Pratchett is 63 today.
Guards! Guards! and Wyrd Sisters entered my life in an ex-library sale, all manky and coated in that thick plastic to keep them clean of toxic life-smears. It was without a doubt one of the best smatterings of loose change I ever spent, honing my enthusiasm for the genre beyond Warhammer sourcebooks and Fighting Fantasy novels into something resembling a normal person’s relationship with fiction. I hungrily consumed every new book in the Discworld saga and then forced them on my father, who indulged me with steady, bemused patience, happily talking about his favourite characters (Sam Vimes, Sergeant Colon and Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler, FYI) and helping me dissect the references to popular culture.
I bought the script book of Mort and fantasised about putting it on with my friends (with myself as Death, I practiced my Christopher Lee impression relentlessly), I went to see Guards! Guards! on stage at Hull New Theatre (Vimes was played by Paul ‘Avon from Blake’s 7‘ Darrow) and I wore a t-shirt with the Librarian on to a school disco – it was pretty rad.
As I got older and my tastes became more sophisticated, it felt as though Pratchett’s writing did too, even to the point of providing a satirical support mechanism for my own life – Maskerade came out as I was dabbling with stage school (an enthusiasm that dropped with my voice) and The Truth was released round about the same time I decided I wanted to be a journalist.
A constant companion through my childhood to my late teens, I sort of lost touch with Pratchett round about the time I lost touch with everything else that wasn’t part of the ephemera of leaving home for the first time (a Pulp Fiction poster, a stack of empty Fosters cans to prove my hop intake, a nutella-smeared Gamecube controller etc). I wasn’t impressed by the cheap knockabout that the Hogfather movie seemed to be – I couldn’t even stomach it all the way through – but the adaptation for Going Postal reminded me of just how brilliant, charming and thoroughly alive his universe is, and how powerful it is to wield such an accessible capacity for wonder (he’s the second most widely read author in the UK, and has sold over 35 million books worldwide – that’s a lot of people who don’t give a random encounter what level your mage is).
And like a favourite uncle from childhood, the one with the magic tricks and the tickly beard, I’ve reconnected.
Happy birthday Uncle Terry.